07/10/21 - Steel and ceramics manufacturers unite to explore furnace emission reductions

User AvatarPosted by Colin Weston at 07/10/2021 13:42:22
Steel and ceramics manufacturers unite to explore furnace emission reductions

Two foundation industry operators on the South Humber Bank are playing a key role in focused efforts to cut carbon emissions from core processes.

British Steel and Wienerberger have been brought together by the Materials Processing Institute to investigate waste heat recovery from furnaces.

Steel and ceramics - Wienerberger is the firm behind Brough, Goxhill and Epworth roof tile operations - use gas-fired furnaces in continuous operation at temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees centigrade.

They have been hooked up with solutions providers Heatcatcher Ltd and Low Carbon Europe Ltd as part of a project that will contribute to the National Energy and Climate Plan.

It includes Clean Growth Strategy requirements to improve business energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2030.

As part of the work, they compared infrastructure, examining combustion efficiency and heat flows across both businesses.

As well as looking at ways to reduce the amount of gas used, it identified the opportunity to introduce clean-burning hydrogen to the fuel mix by making changes to the furnace burner, while also reusing heat from cooling systems to pre-heat the combustion air in brick kilns.

Electricity generation from waste and remnant heat will also be explored, while improving combustion efficiency through modern burner technologies.

Chris McDonald, chief executive of the Teesside-based Materials Processing Institute, said: “This project is a successful example of how the steel and ceramic sectors have worked together, supported by Innovate UK, to share expertise and develop practical solutions to reduce carbon emissions.

“The outcome of this particular project is encouraging, having identified ways to refine an already highly efficient process by improving heat recovery and combustion technologies.

“We are confident the improvements identified are applicable to all similar continuous reheating furnaces and brick kilns and have the potential to deliver widespread benefits to the steel and ceramic sectors.”

Both have already made strides in reusing exhaust heat to pre-heat product. In addition, the brick kilns use further exhaust heat to dry product while the steel furnace recuperates exhaust heat.

The results are being shared across the foundation industries to encourage take up of improved technologies and waste heat recovery. This includes more than 40 brick kilns and 20 steel reheat furnaces in the UK alone.

Dr Gari Harris, head of research and development at British Steel, said: “This consortium has developed a powerful team that not only delivered a successful collaboration for this project but can be called on again for subsequent decarbonisation and energy-saving projects. The energy savings identified in this project have generated great excitement within British Steel, as we have around 20 similar furnaces across our parent company with the potential for similar savings in each.”

The project was partly funded by Innovate UK through the Fast Start Competition, a research and development initiative run by the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge, providing up to £5 million for cross-sector, collaborative, feasibility studies and industrial research and development projects focused on common resource and energy efficiency opportunities.

Greg Crownshaw, thermal process engineer at Wienerberger UK said: “Working with the consortium has been fascinating, allowing us to compare two high temperature processes and energy intensive industries. Through this, we have been able to identify improvements and opportunities to share best practices in steel reheat furnaces and brick tunnel kilns.

"This project is a great example of cross-industry collaboration to work on reducing carbon emissions going forward and is aligned with Wienerberger’s sustainability strategy ‘Let’s Build Beyond’, which encourages partnerships to reduce carbon emissions from our manufacturing processes.


"The move to ergo has given us an excellent opportunity to have a dedicated on-site point of access for both tenants and the wider business population. This will enable us to continue our work supporting regional businesses and promoting supply chain opportunities."

- Dawn Hall, Business Support - Project Manager, East Riding of Yorkshire Council.